Election Day gets off to a quiet start in Fulton County
By Raisa Habersham
The typical long lines you see at polls were nonexistent this morning
Election Day is underway in Fulton County, an area that saw crowded polling places and long lines during June primaries. More than 315,000 residents have cast ballots during the in-person early voting period. Another 144,000 absentee ballots have been submitted to the county. Absentee ballots will be accepted at any dropbox location until 7 p.m.
For more Election Day coverage, follow The SaportaReport for updates throughout the day. Election results can be found on the Georgia Secretary of State’s website.
Noon update: Long lines were initially difficult to find on Election Day in Fulton County. Residents cast ballots early this morning in an unprecedented election cycle marred by COVID-19 measures and fewer polling places, but most were in and out within minutes.
“I think this is a testament to well run early voting,” Fulton County elections director Richard Barron told reporters Tuesday during a media briefing. “It always helps when you have a robust turnout during early voting to alleviate issues that can crop up on election day.”
The scene is a stark contrast from what residents experienced in June, when social distancing measures were strictly enforced and polling places were shuttered at the last minute creating disastrous long lines.
On Tuesday, wait times were under 30 minutes at all precincts, but Barron said that could change later in the day as residents finish their workday at about 5 p.m. and head to the polls.
“Today is turning out more similar to the 2016 presidential election, in which we just had steady movement through the polls during the day, rather than then a big crush of voters,” Barron said.
Despite shorter lines, Fulton was not without its technical difficulties. One vendor told Fulton election officials late Monday they did not have the staff to help move the equipment which affected more than 30 precincts. The equipment eventually arrived, but in some cases, voters had to use provisional ballots before that became the case.
In northwest Atlanta, Morris Brandon Elementary School had polling pad issues that have since been resolved, Barron said. Other issues included ballot scanners improperly working.
“The cradle points that we purchased for this election cycle have enabled us to remotely log in to those poll pads and fix them,” Barron said. “In some other cases, [poll workers] were able to see what was happening on them. And we had the poll workers do a hard reset on those to ensure that they were working properly. But when you have a lot of technology in the field, in this case, iPads, printers, touchscreens, scanners, you, you have the possibility of inoperability, with that much technology in the field. There are four components; with our previous voting system, we had one component.”
3:30 p.m. update: Outside the Central Park Recreation Center in Old Fourth Ward, Lizzo’s “Good As Hell” blares from a nearby church and you can hear the rustling of leaves on the ground.
Normally, you’d hear the complaint of a resident about the long lines swarming outside the building, but all there was to see were a couple people entering to cast ballots then leaving.
The precinct was one of several crowded polling places in Fulton County during the June primaries, but the sight there was a far cry from early this summer. That’s in part due to nearby Ponce City Market becoming a polling place — one of the new 91 polling locations added this election season.
With fewer voters at precincts, the likelihood of voter intimidation is lessened, but that doesn’t mean the ACLU of Georgia hasn’t seen its fair share of it.
ACLU of Georgia executive director Andrea Young said the organization received a report of a man in a pickup truck waving a gun outside a Gwinnett County precinct.
“Beyond that, it’s been quiet,” she told SaportaReport. “In terms of reports we’ve seen, things are fairly calm.”
The ACLU of Georgia has between 35 and 40 legal observers stationed in each of the major metro Atlanta counties and about a dozen in other major cities in the state, Young said. The observers document any form of intimidation and the organization decides what the best form of action is, which could simply be getting a poll worker involved.
“A lot of times these people are bullies,” Young said of voter intimidators.
Still, the ACLU of Georgia is preparing for a surge between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., when the after-work crowd is likely to arrive.
In which case, legal observes will play a key role in documenting intimidation that occurs — if there is any.
8 p.m. update: As polls in most Georgia counties close, Spalding County residents will have until 9 p.m. to cast ballots after widespread technical issues at several locations. Residents who arrive between 7 and 9 p.m. will cast ballots on provisional ballots.
Meanwhile, Fulton County election officials will be in for a long night after flooding at State Farm Arena, where ballots are being processed, led to a four-hour delay, Fulton County elections chief Dwight Brower said at a Fulton Board of Elections meeting on Tuesday evening.
Brower did immediately have early voting totals through Oct. 30 (the last day of early voting) but said more than 14,000 in-person ballots were cast Tuesday — a “relatively low” number given the number of precincts, Fulton County board of elections board member Vernetta Keith Nuriddin said. Brower said nearly 600 provisional ballots have been cast.
The low Election Day turnout combined with the ballot processing delays also troubled Fulton elections board member Mark Wingate.
“It sounds to me like we may not be able, from a candidate standpoint, they may not know anything until Friday,” he said.
Despite the setbacks, Fulton County elections director Richard Barron called the days “successful.”
Included in this evening’s count will be early voting results, in-person Election Day ballots cast and 86,000 absentee ballots. The remaining absentee ballots will be counted on Wednesday and Thursday. Results are expected to be certified on Friday, Oct. 13.
Fulton County residents can view election results here in their county here.